As I have shared here before, the General Conference of The United Methodist Church voted in February to retain and tighten restrictions on same-sex marriage and the ordination of gay clergy. The penalty for clergy officiating at same-sex marriages is a one-year suspension without pay for the first offense and removal of ordination credentials for the second offense.
Since the February meeting, United Methodists across the world have spoken out in anger and grief over this decision, including a number of people at Mill Plain. It has seemed likely that we would split as a church, and people have asked me when that would happen.
Two significant steps toward dissolution came at the meeting of the Pacific Northwest Annual Conference in early June. These steps were to form a “Study Committee for Disaffiliation from The United Methodist Church which will have the authority to develop a plan of exit of the entire annual conference from
The United Methodist Church” and directed our bishop to “name a task force that will ensure the submission of an application for a separate, independent, non-profit, legal entity by October 15, 2019.”
Bishop Stanovsky told us she intends to name an area-wide coalition to figure out how to move forward. As of this writing, annual conferences in Oregon, Idaho and other parts of the Western Jurisdiction had yet to meet. I think it highly likely that many of them will pass similar resolutions. The United Methodist Church is a complex organization with many parts and significant financial systems. It will not be easy or quick to dissolve this union.
As we anticipate a split in The United Methodist Church, I think it is time for Mill Plain to clarify its position. To that end, I have asked Council Chair Wanda Scott to call a meeting on July 15, at 6:30 p.m. I have two items in mind for the agenda. One is to establish a policy about what weddings we will host at the church; namely is this church willing to host same-sex weddings? The other is to begin to learn more about what it would mean to become a Reconciling Congregation. The mission of Reconciling Ministries says: “Living into our shared baptismal covenant, the Reconciling Ministries Network equips and mobilizes United Methodists to resist evil, injustice and oppression as we seek justice for people of all sexual orientations and gender identities.” There are currently two Reconciling Congregations in Vancouver (Vancouver Heights and Battle Ground) and we can learn more from them.
Only members of the Church Council can vote at meetings, but any interested person is welcome to attend meetings and voice an opinion.
I invite anyone who wishes to attend the July 15 meeting to do so. I want to be open with you that I think that the church must be open to and inclusive of all peoples. That includes those in the LGBTQIA community AND those of a more traditional mindset. I know that not everyone will agree with me. I long to be pastor to all people at Mill Plain. You don’t have to agree with me on the issues. In the words of John Wesley, “though we cannot think alike, may we not love alike?”